Ten years ago, non-indigenous households from three communities in the Ucayali region in Peru regularly ate fish, wild fruits and other products collected from the Amazon forest. Combined with whatever they grew and harvested on their lands, this contributed to a relatively diverse diet. Today, the same households have changed their production strategy and how they get food on the table. Agricultural production, complemented by hunter-gatherer activities, aimed to satisfy both household consumption and income generation. However, this has been largely replaced by commercial agriculture such as palm oil and cocoa. This shift in agricultural production objectives has affected the sources of food for local communities and appears to be associated with relatively less diverse diets, according to a new study authored, among others, by CIAT (now the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT) scientists.
"Our objective was to test the hypothesis that the economic transformations linked to the expansion of cash crops in mestizo communities, especially oil palm, were associated with deforestation and reduced agricultural biodiversity and that this was likely to be associated with changes in food access," says Genowefa Blundo Canto, co-author and Post Doc researcher at CIAT at the time of the study.
The study represents one of rather few attempts to trace changes in food access, livelihood strategies, deforestation and agricultural biodiversity over time. The scientists collected data on livelihood strategies and nutritional health among 53 families in the Ucayali region in Peru and compared the results with data gathered from the same families in the early 2000s. Despite the small sample, caused by significant outmigration from these communities, the results were remarkable.